Breathe Your Way Into Your Best Run

Unite body and mind through your breath for a productive morning workout

Balance is the unity between our mind and body. Our bodies respond to the way that our minds feel. It’s our bodies’ way of telling us that something isn’t right; something is out of order. The problem is that most of us listen to our mind and the body suffers.

It’s one of those mornings for me. My mind is trying to tell me to hit the snooze button, stay in bed, and rest. This after I’ve just enjoyed a good seven hours’ sleep the night before. It’s in these moments that I’m prone to do the complete opposite from how my mind is attempting to describe the morning to me. This is the moment I realize I must get out of bed and begin moving through my day—“moving” being a key word here.

My mind has started the day with an attempt to disconnect me from my body. So, first on the agenda is engaging in the practice that cultivates unity and peace within. I begin with my breath. Breathing (or pranayama in yoga) is the tool that “yokes” the body/mind connection. With each task, I deepen my inhale and lengthen my exhale, developing a nice steady rhythm of breath. The pace of my breath is just as important as the length and depth.

On this particular morning, I’m starting my day with a run. I begin with a standard breath-based warm-up. I remain focused on the length, depth, and pace of my inhale and exhale as I nasal breathe diaphragmatically. The breath is my natural furnace, heating my body up from the inside out and sending fresh oxygen to my heart and lungs. It’s only me, the sound of my breath, my feet hitting the ground, and the snow capped mountains in the distance.

The beginning of my run sets the tone for my experience. My mind is onboard with systemic breathing sequences and the body reaps the benefits. My heart rate stays in healthy ranges until or unless I consciously ask more from it. And, when I do ask more, I’m always mindful of giving it back what it needs from the extra demand as I systematically reset my autonomic nervous system.

My warm-up today included:

  • The first five minutes with an equal nasal inhale and exhale
  • The second five minutes with a nasal inhale for a count of 6 and nasal exhale for count of 12
  • Moving into a 4-part breath, I hold the breath in at the top of the inhale and at the base of the exhale. Today I played with counts of 5, 6, and 7, with several rounds of integration breaths in between.

At the base, I begin my hill climb with power breathing to saturate my blood with oxygen. The decline included alternate nostril breathing to reset my heart rate and settle back in to a steady pace. By the time I’m in the meat of my run, my heart rate is low, my mind is calm, my body is moving effortlessly, and it’s me enjoying the blessing that is this moment. I’m always amazed at the wonder that is our body.

No workout would be complete without some cross-patterning yoga movements to balance and complement the muscle groups involved in my run. We save the best for last—savasana! I lie in a restorative position for 8 to 10 minutes allowing my body to integrate all that I’ve asked of it this morning.

Now as I head off to work, my mind is clear and undisturbed. It’s onboard with me instead of working against me and my body. We’re a united team living in alignment with my truest desires.

Wow and amaze yourself with the power of breath no matter what your form of exercise. Yoga breathing is the foundation of movement in the asana, and it’s the same for traditional exercise and training. No form of proper movement can exist without your breath.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user thomashawk.

ed harrold

Ed Harrold is an inspirational leader, coach, and educator. Ed’s mastery in the science of breath has guided him to apply mindful, conscious breathing practices in fitness, weight loss, stress reduction, and overall health and well-being. Ed uses transformational coaching to educate corporate America, athletes, and individuals on conscious breathing and mindfulness strategies. 

Experience Ed’s MindBodyAthlete™, Transformational Coaching, and transformative programs at The Aspen Club.